Fact Sheets


Setaria faberi R. A. W. Herrm.

Family :

Famille :


Synonym(s) :

Synonyme(s) :

Common Name(s) :

Nom(s) commun(s) :

Giant foxtail
(English) (GC 2016)

Sétaire géante (French) (GC 2016)

Chinese foxtail (English) (FNA 1993+)

Cola de zorra gigante (Spanish) (CABI 2021)

Da gou wei cao (大狗尾草) (Chinese) (eFloras 2021)

  • Giant foxtail (Setaria faberi) spikelet and florets

  • Giant foxtail (Setaria faberi) spikelet

  • Giant foxtail (Setaria faberi) floret, lemma view

  • Giant foxtail (Setaria faberi) floret, side view

  • Giant foxtail (Setaria faberi) floret, palea view

  • Giant foxtail (Setaria faberi) spikelets

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Regulation :

Remarques Réglementation:

  • CFIA Weed Seeds Order - Class 2: Primary Noxious Weed Seeds

Regulation Notes:

Distribution :

Répartition :

Native to temperate eastern Asia and introduced in North America, central Europe, Russia and the Middle East (Nurse et al. 2009; USDA-ARS 2021). It occurs in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec (Brouillet et al. 2010+). In the United States, it occurs mostly in the eastern states and is expanding westward (Nurse et al. 2009).

Habitat and Crop Association :

Habitat et Cultures Associées :

Cultivated fields, old fields, gardens, roadsides, railway lines and disturbed areas (Darbyshire 2003). A weed of a variety of crops, but causes the greatest losses in Zea mays (corn) and Glycine max (soybeans) (Nurse et al. 2009; CABI 2021).

Economic Use, cultivation area, and Weed Association :

Utilisation économique, zone de culture et association de mauvaises herbes :

Duration of Life Cycle :

Durée du cycle vital:


Dispersal Unit Type :

Type d’unité de dispersion :


General Information


Setaria faberi may have been introduced into North America as a contaminant of imported seeds from China. It may also contaminate bird seed and flower seed mixtures as well as other crop seeds. In Canada, the occurrence of S. faberi coincided with the cultivation of Zea mays (field corn) beginning in the 1960s (Nurse et al. 2009).


Setaria faberi field (John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org)



  • Spikelet


    • Spikelet length*: 2.7 – 3.4 mm; width: 1.3 – 2.0 mm
    *Note: minimum and maximum of 10 spikelets in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)


    • Spikelet egg-shaped, plano-convex in edge view

    Surface Texture

    • Spikelet has a smooth surface with longitudinal nerves


    • Spikelet colour is dull straw yellow or brown

    Other Features

    • Glumes and sterile floret are thin and have a papery consistency
    • The second glume covers 3/4 of the lemma, the first glume covers up to ¼ of the palea
    • The sterile lemma covers the fertile palea of the spikelet
    • Sterile palea is thin and pointed, generally adhered to the palea of the fertile floret
  • Floret


    • Floret length: 2.8 mm (Barkworth et al. 2003)


    • Florets egg-shaped, plano-convex in 3 dimensions, immature florets are more oval shaped
    • Narrow end of lemma curves down in profile view, giving a humped appearance to floret

    Surface Texture

    • Floret surface is transversely ridged, becoming smooth at the narrow end
    • Palea has a grid ridged reticulate texture with smooth edges exposed along the outer edges of the palea
    • Immature florets do not have the smooth edges of the palea exposed


    • Floret colour is shiny straw yellow or brown
    • Immature florets are light yellow or green coloured

    Other Features

    • Narrow end of palea dips in towards lemma
  • Caryopsis


    • Caryopsis fills the floret


    • Caryopsis is egg-shaped

    Surface Texture

    • Caryopsis is smooth textured


    • Caryopsis is translucent light yellow coloured

    Other Features

    • The hilum is round and dark brown coloured, situated on the opposite side of the embryo
  • Embryo


    • Embryo is a rudimentary size compared to the caryopsis


    • Embryo is oval or oblong shaped, in a lateral position at one end of the caryopsis


    • Endosperm is hard and translucent whitish coloured

Identification Tips


Similar Setaria species can be distinguished by both spikelet and the floret features. The second glume of the S. faberi spikelet generally covers ¾ of the lemma, longer than S. pumila subsp. pumila and shorter than the glume of S. viridis. The lemma texture of similar Setaria species remains rough at the narrow end, but becomes smooth in S. faberi. The humped lemma profile of S. faberi can be distinguished from the evenly curved profiles of other Setaria species.

Additional Botany Information


Similar Species


Similar species are based on a study of seed morphology of various species, and those with similar dispersal units are identified. The study is limited by physical specimen and literature availability at the time of examination, and possibly impacted by the subjectivity of the authors based on their knowledge and experience. Providing similar species information for seed identification is to make users aware of similarities that could possibly result in misidentification.

Setaria pumila subsp. pumila (Poir.) Roem. & Schult. (yellow foxtail)

S. pumila subsp. pumila spikelets are generally larger (length*: 2.8 – 3.5 mm; width: 1.8 – 2.2 mm) than S. faberi. The lemma ridges of S. pumila subsp. pumila remain strong at the narrow end, the palea lacks the shiny outer edges of S. faberi, and the second glume reaches only halfway up the lemma.

*Note: minimum and maximum of 10 spikelets in a normal range of this species using image measurement (ISMA 2020)

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Barkworth, M. E., Capels, K. M., Long, S., Anderton, L. K. and Piep, M. B., (eds.) 2003. Volume 25. Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Poaceae, part 1. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

Brouillet, L., Coursol, F., Meades, S. J., Favreau, M., Anions, M., Bélisle, P. and Desmet, P. 2010+. VASCAN, the database of vascular plants of Canada. http://data.canadensys.net/vascan/ Accessed April 1, 2021.

Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI). 2022. Invasive Species Compendium, CAB International, Wallingford, UK. https://www.cabidigitallibrary.org/journal/cabicompendium Accessed April 1, 2021.

Darbyshire, S. J. 2003. Inventory of Canadian Agricultural Weeds. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Research Branch. Ottawa, ON.

eFloras. 2021. Electronic Floras. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA., http://www.efloras.org Accessed April 1, 2021.

Flora of North America (FNA) Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico [Online]. 22+ vols. New York and Oxford.  http://beta.floranorthamerica.org. Accessed December 29, 2022.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) Secretariat. 2022. https://doi.org/10.15468/39omei Accessed via https://www.gbif.org/species/5289666 Accessed December 29, 2022.

Government of Canada (GC). 2016. Canadian Weed Seeds Order. https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-2016-93/page-2.html (English) https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/fra/reglements/DORS-2016-93/page-2.html (French)

International Seed Morphology Association (ISMA). 2020. Method for Seed Size Measurement. Version 1.0. ISMA Publication Guide.  https://www.idseed.org/authors/details/method_for_seed_size_measurement.html

Nurse, R. E., Darbyshire, S. J., Bertin, C. and DiTommaso, A. 2009. The Biology of Canadian Weeds. 141. Setaria faberi Herrm. Canadian Journal of Plant Science 89: 379-404.

U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS). 2021. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomysimple.aspx Accessed April 1, 2021.




Jennifer Neudorf, Angela Salzl, Ruojing Wang, Karen Castro, Katrina Entwistle

Canadian Food Inspection Agency